Q&A with ScottMadden Consultants and Veterans Rob Smith and Holly Thompson
Published: Jul 11, 2023
Vault: Can you tell us a bit about the kind of work you do at ScottMadden?
Rob Smith: I work primarily within ScottMadden’s Corporate & Shared Services practice, specifically focused on advising our clients in the areas of finance and IT. My work varies from client to client but typically revolves around business process design and implementation, project management, and risk management.
Holly Thompson: I am relatively new to ScottMadden, but in my time here I have experienced two different projects. My first project was a shared services project supporting an HR transformation effort at a global biotechnical company. It was exciting to guide and support the client through a pivotal transition and to have the opportunity to work with people from around the world.
My second project was an Energy project supporting an electric utility in building out their beneficial electrification plan and programs. It was interesting to work in the rapidly advancing electrification markets and be able to advise the client on new programs around electric vehicles and other electrification technologies.
Vault: What interested you in a career in consulting and why did you choose ScottMadden over other consulting firms?
RS: I think the problem-solving and people/relationship management aspect is what initially attracted me to consulting. As to why ScottMadden, first it’s our firm’s culture. Since my first day, I have felt empowered by leaders at all levels and enjoy the overall collaborative and collegial atmosphere. Second, the real-world impact that our project work has on our clients and their businesses is very meaningful.
HT: I was really attracted to consulting after serving in the military because I like the fast-paced, short-project environment that both consulting and the military have in common. During my time in the military, I worked with a number of different organizations on a variety of different initiatives, and I loved the diversity that brought to my career. I think consulting provides me with a similar experience by allowing me to work with so many different clients.
I chose ScottMadden over other consulting firms because I liked the firm’s culture and the sustainable approach they take to consulting. While the work can be fast paced, the leadership team is deliberate about not overwhelming the consultants in an effort to avoid burnout. Being able to effectively balance work and life outside of work is one of the aspects that makes the ScottMadden culture so great.
Vault: What was your experience transitioning from the armed forces to the civilian workforce like? Were there any challenges or surprises?
RS: I transitioned out of active Army service back in 2014, and the challenges I faced honestly took me by surprise. In the military, you come to expect defined career paths and timelines, especially for those in deployable units. However, initially, finding a civilian career you want to pursue—much less navigating the job market and recruiting pipelines—is much more difficult. In 2014, targeted veteran recruiting was not common practice, and it took the advice of several mentors to guide me toward getting an MBA.
HT: I transitioned out of the Air Force at the end of my five-year service commitment and immediately took a role at an industrial gas company. I worked there for a couple of years before joining ScottMadden. My transition experience made me miss the community support that comes with military relocations. The first couple of months following my transition out of the Air Force were overwhelming as I was adjusting to a different work environment, understanding non-military career development, and learning how to choose healthcare plans. I think having a veteran community like the one we have at ScottMadden could have really helped me during my military transition.
Vault: What unique skills from your time in the military are most helpful to you as a consultant?
RS: Understanding the situational leadership model and when to use different types of leadership approaches to influence work, particularly when collaborating with client resources. Also, the ability to reference frameworks such as the military decision-making process or troop-leading procedures to help plan and manage project work have been invaluable.
HT: I think my military experiences prepared me well for my career as a consultant because the military taught me to be a quick learner. In the military, I had to get smart on topics very quickly so that I could engage with different teams, projects, and programs. Similarly, being a consultant means that you have to pick up information quickly so that you can begin working with the client to solve their problems.
Additionally, the military built up my leadership skills, and I have been able to continue to leverage those skills as a consultant. Specifically, my cross-functional leadership abilities have played a key role in the projects I have worked on. As a consultant, I am leading projects and interfacing with multiple different individuals, teams, and organizations on the client side. Having cross-functional leadership skills allows me to effectively lead a project involving individuals who work in multiple different functions.
Vault: ScottMadden founded an employee resource group for veterans in 2022—what are some of the group’s initiatives, and how does it interact with the firm and the community?
RS: Our veterans employee resource group (affectionally called the VERG) has several initiatives that focus on providing an inclusive environment in which veterans can connect with one another as well as with non-veterans. Specific efforts include providing incoming new hires with sponsors of similar military experience, periodic happy hours and other social events, and community outreach. Regarding community outreach, the VERG recently helped support the assembly of care packages to our troops overseas.
HT: ScottMadden’s Veteran’s Employee Resource Group (VERG) focuses on enhancing veterans’ employee experiences at the firm by supporting veterans through our collective service, career development, firm engagement, professional growth, and mentorship. In support of this mission, the VERG facilitates and hosts a number of initiatives throughout the year. Specifically, the VERG facilitates volunteer events to give back with local charities, hosts happy hours to promote veteran camaraderie, and conducts fireside chats to foster belonging and inclusion in the firm. The VERG is a great resource for veterans who are just transitioning from the military and those who have been out of the military for a number of years.
Vault: What advice do you have for other veterans who are looking to join the consulting industry?
RS: First, I would not underestimate the importance of a consulting firm’s culture when evaluating future employment opportunities. Each company has its own unique culture, and I would recommend speaking with as many people as possible about their experiences beforehand. Secondly, understand the typical roles and responsibilities you are likely to have while on a project. Some firms operate in very hierarchical project teams, while others are flatter.
HT: For veterans looking to join the consulting industry, I recommend starting by prioritizing the career aspects (e.g., nature of work, work-life balance, pay, etc.) that are most important to you. Compare this prioritized list to a consulting position, and, if your priorities align with the position, then it could be a good career fit. Additionally, I recommend talking with someone who is already in the consulting industry who can answer any questions you may have.